Test Optional Admission Data

Here is some more info….from the Washington Post.



I don’t get peoples’ faith in the college board corporations standardized tests and how when presented with valid arguments and information, they will twist and squirm any which way to defend their faith. What other corporation in America has such a grip on peoples’ minds not to mention on a vital component of the economy?

Pepsi? Walmart? I’m really trying to think here and I can’t find one.

California is still very iffy on getting a seat for a test. Also, they are still canceling them left and right. We decided it wasn’t worth it for my daughter to be taking 10 college units, high school classes, college applications, and dancing 20 plus hours a week to stress out studying again for an exam that might not take place.


I don’t get peoples’ faith in grades provided by high schools that have every incentive to inflate the grades of their students, especially their top students. Take away the only form of benchmarking for those schools against other schools, and the prep schools and wealthy suburban schools will be handing out A’s like candy on Halloween.

There are a lot of studies showing the massive grade inflation at preps and wealthy suburbs over the last 20 years, and now some people want to pull the last guardrails away and turn college admissions into a closed club favoring the wealthy and connected.


I agree - that’s where rank comes in - but of course less and less are ranking now.

I had a 2.8 in HS and i was 40%.

Today, 40th percent is probably - I don’t know - a 4.


Yep. And there is a big difference between course offerings at wealthy/private schools compared to other high schools as well as advising on what courses a student should take. Not to mention the differences between the types of letters that guidance counselors are able to write (and the fact that some AO have “relationships” with guidance counselors and a “history” of accepting kids from certain schools).

Standardized tests are a great way for kids from average/below average high schools to at least make it through the first screening.


We’ve had two tests cancel two days before the test. I actually think HS class of 22 had minimal opportunities to take either test. At least where we are from…

Funny enough I am the OP. Obviously this is anecdotal and a study of one but after so much test prep and multiple cancelled tests and then completed tests D22 got into her top choice school in a competitive program without submitting any scores. So I’m more convinced that TO is legitimate.


I haven’t read this entire thread, and the Search function is…ummm…not optimal, so apologies if this was already posted.

I saw MIT’s Class of 2025 data for the first time yesterday.

1,365 admitted of 33,240 - 4.1%

In the SAT breakdown, 1,104 of 14,279 were admitted - 7.7%
In the ACT breakdown, 597 of 7,892 were admitted - 7.6%

This means that of the 18,961 that didn’t provide an SAT score, 261 were admitted. That’s 1.38%

Best case I can come up with - every accepted ACT student also submitted the SAT, and every rejected ACT student did not submit an SAT. So subtract 7,295 from the number of applicants, but none from the admitted. That’s a best case of 2.24%

Worst case, SAT and ACT acceptances add up to more than the total number, so the test optional admissions could be be 0.0%

I suspect the number is in the middle, giving test-submitting students a 7.7% acceptance rate and test-optional about a 1.4% rate.

Obviously the student profiles are different, so this doesn’t mean the same student submitting or not submitting makes a 5x difference. But the data was interesting.

Other interpretations/corrections to my back-of-the-envelope numbers are welcome.

(Then again, the Early Action number of applicants and Regular Decision number applicants don’t add up to the total number of applicants. And the Domestic plus International number of applicants add to a third number, so who knows. )


Those numbers are interesting but atypical. Unlike at many schools, MIT applicants are strongly encouraged to submit the scores if they can. Here are the current requirements:

Yeah, we’re in California and my D22 had her SAT canceled 3 times, each within a few weeks of the test. The weird thing is her friends who’d signed up at different sites (all within the same metro area) didn’t have theirs canceled. She studied for the first scheduled exam, but hasn’t really studied since except for a couple of practice tests and is instead focusing on her classes. (She’s taking Econ and likes to remind me about opportunity costs :wink:)

My kid was scheduled in Aug 2020 in LA County- obv it was cancelled. Then there was a Sept 2020 test in Riverside County which was cancelled the day before. Then we went to San Diego County and he finally took it in Oct 2020. I find it odd that places in CA are still having issues. I think my kid’s friends wanted to take this past Sept 21 Test date and it was cancelled. So ridiculous!

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Congrats to your daughter! Glad the eventual outcome was so good!

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The numbers would indicate roughly 50% applying TO. Is this atypically low? I haven’t been following the data.

I hadn’t read the footnotes before.

our research shows that considering performance on the SAT/ACT substantially improves our ability to predict subsequent student success at MIT. When we have SAT/ACT scores for a student, we can more confidently assess their preparation;

kinda screams “we had to offer TO, but you really, really, really should send scores.

Interesting that MIT is saying test scores improve their ability to predict success, even though many here loudly proclaim that they don’t (even though the data say they do).


My kiddo is going to go TO this year. He asked his GC if he should re-take the SAT (or try the ACT) and she said not to bother. In her view, it won’t hurt his application. That being said, while he is applying to some good schools where admissions are competitive, he won’t be applying to any top 25 schools so her advice was based on that. My personal sense is that for schools like MIT you are better off submitting a score.


Not sure where you get the 50% number. Looks like it could be as low as 1/3, depending on how MIT sorts its SAT and ACT breakdown. Regardless, I wasn’t referring to the number of TO submissions but rather to MIT’s strong preference for test scores.

I agree, which is why I don’t think it is indicative of other schools where TO is more truly an option. If a school is strongly encouraging applicants to send scores, then it seems like it would be worth listening to the school.

Cal Tech seems to believe otherwise, and many other schools seem to agree with Cal Tech, at least in part. In the context of helping applicants understand the process, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to understand the way things are, rather than arguing for what you think it ought to be?

I have no problem with a school saying “The SAT and ACT suck, and we will not consider it in the admissions process.” It is their school, and they can use any criteria they want for admissions within legal limits. Grades, EC’s, essays, parents’ net worth, make the parents bid for spots in the school, whatever a school wants to do, they should go for it.

My issue with TO is that it appears to be an attempt to game the rankings rather than assemble the best student body. By going TO, schools can hide the scores of their weakest (i.e. hooked) applicants and not get dinged in the rankings for taking an outstanding applicant who simply didn’t score well. But the schools still want credit for their super high SAT range (which they have made higher by going TO).

The fact that many top schools still favor legacies in admissions but are arguing that tests are too weighted towards the privileged is as hypocritical as it gets.


MIT sounds like an outlier. Perhaps there is a unique explanation, such as asking accepted + matriculating students to submit scores over the summer before attending if they have them, like Bowdoin and various other colleges do.

A comparison of admit rate between test optional and test submitters at other selective private colleges for which I could find info below. The median of the 9 selective private colleges with information for the full class was ~50% of applicants test optional vs ~40% of admits test optional, which suggests test submitter admit rate was ~1.5x higher than test optional admit rate. For example, 15% admit rate for submitters vs 10% admit rate for non-submitters.

Test submitter applicants are expected to be stronger on average in the full application (expected to average higher GPA, higher course rigor, better LORs, better ECc/awards, more ALDC hooks, higher income, etc.); so I don’t think it is clear that the non-submitters were being significantly penalized for not having a score at typical selective, private colleges.

Total Class (ED/EA + RD)
Wellesley – 60% of applicants test optional, ~50% of admits test optional
Barnard – 59% of applicants test optional, 47% of admits test optional
Colgate – 59% of applicants test optional, 40% of admits test optional
Boston U – 58% of applicants test optional, 43% of admits test optional
Tufts – ~50% of applicants test optional, ~41% of admits test optional
Davidson – ~50% of applicants test optional, 36% of admits test optional
Emory – ~50% of applicants test optional, 31% of admits test optional
Amherst – 49% of applicants test optional, 37% of admits test optional
Vanderbilt – 44% of applicants test optional, 39% of admits test optional

Only ED / EA
Penn ED – 38% applicants test optional, 24% of admits test optional
Notre Dame REA – 49% of applicants test optional, 31% of admits test optional


Using the same methodology I laid out. Yes, it could be a range, like the TO admission rate could be 0. 50% is roughly the middle of the possible range, given consistent SAT/ACT acceptance rates.

That’s making an assumption that no ranking system will make adjustments starting next year, when the first pandemic-driven TO class will be factored into the data. I’d be very surprised if USNews and others just take and weigh reported standardized test score distributions as they have this year.

I agree, though others have objected to the initial assumption when I’ve stated this.

Thanks for the summary data - that’s what I didn’t have for comparison. MIT does look to be outside the norm of this sample set.

And fwiw, I highly doubt MIT padded their “admits” stats retroactively.